Leading seniors’ advocacy body, COTA Australia, has welcomed today’s announcement by the Federal government to boost flu vaccination rates among aged care workers in an effort to safeguard older people against this often deadly virus.
COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said he had for some time been concerned that rates of flu vaccination among aged care staff, and even among doctors who visit facilities, were unacceptably low and inconsistent between facilities.
“Aged care residents are especially vulnerable to the flu and all precautions must be put in place to protect them,” Mr Yates said.
“Vaccination is less effective among very old people; which makes them more susceptible if exposed to others with symptoms, and many residents have other health issues that make them more vulnerable.
“Keeping flu out of aged care homes is also critical because it can spread so quickly from resident to resident.”
Following recent deaths and widespread illness from flu in nursing homes COTA has been calling for flu vaccination to be made compulsory for nursing home staff.
Mr Yates welcomed Health Minister Greg Hunt’s commitment to work with medical authorities, health care workers and aged care providers on how to make vaccination compulsory for those working in aged care facilities.
“Aged care providers have a legal obligation to achieve optimum physical health for care recipients and the ensure they live in a safe environment.
“In our view this includes ensuring that staff are not carriers of the flu virus into nursing homes.
“In some parts of the country health authorities have worked successfully to require that all staff are vaccinated, but this is not a universal requirement and it should be,” Mr Yates said.
COTA also welcomed Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt’s instruction to the Aged Care Quality Agency to review the practices of all aged care facilities in this regard.
“Aged care providers need to have adequate procedures in place to ensure that residents are not infected with flu by visitors, and cross infected by other residents; so ensuring that all staff are vaccinated is something that can significantly lower risk,” Mr Yates said.
“One hundred per cent protection is not feasible, but it’s not acceptable that the one action that we can have full control over – having all staff vaccinated – is not a universal requirement.”
Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774
COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.